Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) proven to have surfaced in central China and began spreading globally was declared a pandemic by The World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March 2020. It will therefore not be farfetched to state that Covid-19 was global before it was declared a pandemic.
With lockdowns, social distancing, wearing of face masks & protective gear, curfews, and worldwide panics, the world is changing in front of our eyes. In essence, the “old world” is vanishing and a “new world” is currently passing through birthing stages.
Thus, the world will definitely not be the same after the dust settles due to the global effect of Covid-19 on governments, academics, businesses, and civil societies. The pandemic’s abrupt emergence and imprint has led to a re-evaluation and analysis of political, economic, financial projections and risk assessments for 2020 and the 2020s decade because, unfortunately, the pandemic is both a health and economic problem.
As the world moves in an entirely new direction, the government of Dubai has taken great proactive steps in protecting its citizens and tactically reopening the economy. Dubai, one of the seven Emirates of the United Arab Emirates, is a center for regional and international trade in the areas of Tourism, Trade, Aviation, Real Estate, and Financial Services.
As of 17 June, over 3 million people have been tested since the outbreak of COVID-19. In April, Dubai already launched a mobile testing service to carry out free coronavirus screening at home for the elderly and most vulnerable, after slightly easing strict confinement measures. The “Mobile Laboratory Units” are converted ambulances fitted with auto-sterilization equipment, thermal scanners, and safe storage cabins for samples. They play a key role in reducing pressure on hospitals amidst the COVID-19 crisis and help protect people at high risk. A large number of health care workers have been deployed to screening centers and there were 14 drive-through testing facilities available.
The government of the UAE has been extremely proactive in implementing many preventative measures in order to contain the spread of the virus. So much so, the UAE ranks number 11 regarding the safest countries in the world for COVID-19, according to Forbes magazine announced on 5 June 2020.
This is a testimony to the efficiency of the national health system and the country’s readiness to tackle the virus.
Events were suspended from 15 March 2020 onwards until further notice with the sole aim of ensuring the safety of guests and staff.
The Global Mega Event EXPO2020 will now run from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022. A delay that will allow all participants to safely navigate the impact of COVID-19, and will also allow the World Expo to focus on a collective desire for new thinking and identify solutions to some of the greatest challenges of our time.
Selected scheduled passenger flights resumed from 21 May 2020 and tentative plans are in motion to recommence regular flights in July as demand for international travel returns, pending the lifting of travel restrictions not just in the UAE, but also in other countries.
Authorities are preparing for a full reopening of UAE’s borders, subject to the removal of travel restrictions by implementing a series of strategic measures in conjunction with federal counterparts designed to ensure the virus does not enter the emirate through its sea and land ports.
To safeguard and sustain the Aviation industry, Dubai Tourism is working with all relevant bilateral organizations to have a coordinated approach to the gradual re-opening of businesses as well as with Emirates, flydubai, other partners, and relevant authorities to support the planned reopening of routes.
The Dubai Health Authority conducts regular screening and tests of all passengers coming into the city through all its terminals and special health and safety protocols are in place at the airport. At Dubai International airport, gloves and masks are mandatory for all customers and employees.
Thermal scanners monitor the temperature of all passengers and employees stepping into the airport. Physical distancing indicators have been placed on the ground and waiting areas help travelers to maintain the necessary distance during check-in and boarding. The airport team has also installed protective barriers at each check-in desk to provide additional safety reassurance to passengers and employees during an interaction over the counter.
All Emirates aircraft undergo enhanced cleaning and disinfection processes in Dubai after each journey. Onboard Emirates’ flights, seats are pre-allocated (online check-in is not available) with vacant seats placed between individual passengers or family groups in observance of physical distancing protocols.
Emirates has also modified its inflight services for health and safety reasons. Food and beverages continue to be offered in the form of bento-styled boxes to reduce contact between the crew and customers during meal service and minimize the risk of interaction.
Personal boxes provide customers with sandwiches, beverages, snacks, and desserts. In addition, every customer will receive an Emirates hygiene travel kit containing a mask, gloves, wipes, and sanitizer.
In terms of key messaging, the main aspects after the opening of borders are health, safety, and security. In this phase, it is specifically important to inform travelers about the updates from the destination. Especially, the regulations and restrictions put in place by main government bodies such as the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP).
The Federal, Central Bank and Dubai government made available economic stimulus packages and initiatives including reducing fixed operating costs of operations with cuts in utilities by 50% for malls, rents, etc., deferments and cancellation of government fees and fines and easing access to capital for short-term cash relief, reducing interest on loans and deferment of financial obligations to banks. Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE) launched an AED 100 billion comprehensive Economic Support Scheme for retail and corporate customers and Dubai Government launched an AED 1.5 billion economic stimulus package for three months to support companies and the business sector in Dubai.
The stimulus package developed by Dubai Government includes 15 initiatives focused on the commercial sector, retail, external trade, tourism, and the energy sector.
To foster trade, shopping mall operators are working closely with their shopping mall tenants to ensure that they are in a strong position to provide customers with unforgettable shopping experiences and waived rent fees for their tenants for the duration of the period government-mandated store closures.
In the Hospitality sector, Hotels are open and continue to operate rigorous sterilization and disinfection procedures. Online and in-room check-in/check-out is recommended where hotels have e-commerce capabilities.
As a preventative measure, hotel operators must undertake contactless temperature screening for guests before completing the check-in process. Hotel staff are required to go through daily temperature checks and to follow stringent guidelines from Dubai Municipality. COVID-19 tests are optional for people with no symptoms and can be done as per hotel policy and adherence to stringent protocols of health and safety issued by Dubai Municipality (DMHS) and Dubai Tourism such as mandatory temperature checks for all onsite staff, compulsory wearing of masks for staff who are in direct contact with customers and practice of social distancing.
Saunas and wellness treatments are currently not open for use. In addition, pubs, bars, and nightclubs are also not operating as a precautionary measure. Minibars are not in use; refreshments are ordered via in-room dining. However, hotels are using a gradual phasing model re-launching facility operations under stringent health and safety guidelines and procedures that will be in place to ensure seamless but safe experiences for all guests.
In the area of Attractions, Family entertainment facilities such as observation decks and platforms, museums, aquariums, and Green Planet reopened on 27 May 2020 while following stringent guidelines.
The same applies to cinemas and fitness centres, which are allowed to operate now as well. On 12 June, Dubai Municipality issued a circular for the reopening of public and private swimming pools while a week earlier, shopping malls and private sector businesses were allowed to operate at full capacity.
As of 17 June, Dubai announced the resumption of water sports competitions as well as the opening of water and aquatic parks and venues. The city is continuing to loosen restrictions in all sectors and is on a very good way towards the opening of borders in the near future.
Guided by a strategic priority to assure sustainability of the ecosystem and business continuity across the Aviation, Hospitality, Attractions, Retail, Food, and all other activities that are its major essential propositions, Dubai continues to exhibit an underlying resilience that is geared to propel growth.
The ecosystem-wide programme for Tourism Readiness preparation has been a testament to the solidarity and single-minded commitment of all the public and private sector partners, as well as international networks, that still remain instrumental in helping Dubai attract millions of tourists from across the globe.
His Highness, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai, announced an exceptional 4th edition of the Hamdan bin Mohammed Award for Innovation in Project Management featuring a new category titled ‘Innovative Practices in Handling the COVID-19 Pandemic’.
With the new category, the award seeks to recognize organizations that have demonstrated outstanding innovation in project management during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is imperative that countries on the African continent observe, emulate and sustain some, if not all the systems put in place by the Dubai government to ensure a safe transition into the “New World” post-Covid as Africa cannot afford to be left behind. Nigeria, being the largest economy in Africa and the most populous with an estimate of 206 million inhabitants has recorded 10,174 active cases of Covid-19 as of 14 June 2020. Asides the Oil and Gas sector which has taken a downward turn but still remains its key economic driver, Nigeria is the go-to Lifestyle, Entertainment, and Fashion portal in Africa.
The importance of the Nigerian government ensuring the safety of its citizens and facilitating Trade and industry during these trying times cannot be overemphasized. It will be a fortunate move if the Nigerian government provides efficient and accessible Covid-19 tests, introduces economic stimulus packages, and enforces strict safety measures in business, hospitality, and corporate sectors as it gradually eases lockdown in affected states.
South Africa being the second-largest economy in Africa with Tourism, Agriculture, Trade, Mining and Transport as its key economic drivers is equally battling Covid-19 as it takes its toll on the economy with 27,463 active cases of Covid-19 reported as of June 14, 2020. Tourism Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, in March, stated that the outbreak of the Coronavirus had already affected the tourism industry negatively and the number of Coronavirus cases in South Africa remains on the rise. Speaking at the Tourism Leadership Forum held in Sandton, north of Johannesburg, Kubayi-Ngubane expressed his concern for countries on the African continent as Covid-19 continues to spread.
“The local tourism industry has already suffered serious losses,” Kubayi-Ngubane said, adding that these losses are still going to increase. Kubayi-Ngubane said the impact of the virus could lead to the closure of businesses and severe job losses. Like the Dubai government, The South African government should engage the treasury in assisting businesses in distress to access the employment incentives that have been put in place and negotiate with various meetings and events owners to postpone to future dates based on scenarios to minimize cancellations.
The Department of Health should also embark on rigorous safety campaigns at airports and land borders as tourist attractions and businesses reopen.
If leading African countries adopt and sustain the systems put in place by the Dubai government to protect its citizens and foster Trade and commerce with evident success, other African countries will follow suit. It will therefore not be lofty to state that Dubai continues to advance to the forefront as it builds a strong brand identity for other emerging nations to emulate.